Category Archives: visual

Still from Harun Farocki : Computer Animation Rules, Lecture at IKKM, 25 June 2014, available at

Vertical Vision and Atmocultural Navigation. Notes on emerging Urban Scopic Regimes (with Andrea Pavoni)

Still from Harun Farocki : Computer Animation Rules, Lecture at IKKM, 25 June 2014, available at


Forthcoming in Visual Studies


Abstract. This paper analyses vertical vision by tracing its possible genealogy and exploring the forms it takes in the contemporary city. In the first section, vertical vision is situated in the context of its cosmographic tenets. In the second section, the critique of verticality is complemented by a topological approach where vertical vision can be seen folding into a novel visual grammar. The lineaments of this grammar can be retrieved by attending specifically to algorithms and their role in contemporary urban perception, which we discuss in the third section. The fourth section implements the suggestions of two artists: Harun Farocki’s notion of navigation, and Hito Steyerl’s notion of bubble vision. Exposing the central role played by digital platforms in ushering in this novel paradigm, bubble vision can be reconstructed as the logical end-point of classical vertical vision. This comes in conjunction with the rise of peculiar visual-cultural configuration, which could be called ‘atmoculture’. Section five submits that atmoculture represents the cultural milieu of bubble vision. In conclusion, the paper invites visual scholars interested in the study of verticality to recognise bubble vision, together with its atmocultural background, as a new expression, and a reconfiguration, of vertical vision: similarly centred and disembodied, exhilarating, and dangerously de-responsibilising.



Social Camouflage: Functions, Logic, Paradoxes (with Alessandro Castelli)

Now published in Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory

Fixing the Shadow / Beyond the Law (1992)
Fixing the Shadow / Beyond the Law (1992)

Abstract. Camouflage is usually understood as a type of deceitful communication
strategy in the animal and human domains. In this piece, we invite scholars to consider how the phenomenon of camouflage, while certainly grounded in antagonism and selection, might exceed its strategic meaning. Using the case of undercover agents movies, we attempt to flesh out the inner logic of camouflage and the type of social-existential situations it gives shape to. Exploring the mundane practical problem of ‘infiltration’ into a social group or social milieu, the article zooms in onto the experience of camouflage and highlights its relatedness to and distinction from imitation. Camouflage is here used not as an overarching interpretive category, rather, as an instance that reveals something about the problems inherent in the constitution of inter-subjective life. The article seeks to contribute to a theoretical development in the study of social logic and social teleology, stressing the curious entanglement of deliberate strategic action and irrational desire that contradistinguishes what could be called the ‘aberrant conjunction’ of the camoufleur and its target. Camouflage, we conclude, is not only about make-believe but also, crucially, about desiring and learning to desire.

Keywords: Mimicry, Camouflage, Undercover movies, Infiltration, Social logic, Social phenomenology, Inter-Subjectivity

The Functions of Camouflage
The Logic of Camouflage
The Existential Phenomenology of Camouflage
The Paradoxes of Camouflage, or, Learning to Desire

Social Camouflage-FIN+pics  (50 free downloads)

Graffiti and Place Value

A speech I’m delivering at: Street Art in the Changing City: Theoretical Perspectives – Moscow, June 7–8, 2013 –

In a sense, both graffiti and street art share humble origins. While the first emerged as an essential expressive form of disadvantaged inner city youth in the late 1960s, the second originated from a more heterogeneous cohort of underground artists who, however, for quite a lapse since the 1970s through the 1990s, remained marginalized in the official art system. Such humble origins were clearly mirrored in the fact that, seen from the outside, early street art entertained only a parasitic relationship to the official cityscape, while graffiti was mostly stigmatized as seen as negatively affecting places (a sign of ‘urban decay’).

Over the last decade, a major counter-trend has made its appearance, whereby street art has moved much closer to the core of the contemporary art system, whereas graffiti has received unprecedented attention from mainstream cultural institutions. Albeit to different extents and not without contradictory or even paradoxical outcomes, both graffiti and street art have been increasingly associated with thrilling lifestyles, urban creativity, fashionable outfits, and hip neighborhoods. A radical transformation has followed concerning the impact these practices have on the value attributed to certain urban places. Rather than value-neutral (invisible) or value-detracting (supravisible) as before, now graffiti and even more pronouncedly street art seem to be value-bestowing (visible). Visibility means they have turned into recognizable and much sought-for items in the urban landscape.

In this context, my aim is to look at recent graffiti and street art events in the context of recent urban transformation. Although such events have popped up almost everywhere in the world, and in the Western countries in particular, I will refer to the case of Italy, where in the last five years I have been collecting a series of detailed field observations. I am puzzling about the social and cultural significance of graffiti and street art in the changing cityscape and the unfolding urban process. By doing so, I am also inquiring into the economic process of place valorization in the current transformations of capitalism. Finally, I am placing these concerns in the framework of the new political processes of disciplination and urban governance.


Here is the audio record (mp3 version)

Here is also a short interview I’ve released :